DANCING ON THE HEAD OF A PEN

Monday, September 01, 2014



DANCING ON THE HEAD OF A PEN
The Practice of a Writing Life
By Robert Benson

OVERVIEW: In this masterful blend of the practical and the spiritual, Robert Benson invites you into the work and rewards of a writer's life. More than a primer on effective writing, Dancing on the Head of a Pen is a winsome guide to the place in the heart where the life of the spirit meets the life of art. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: Robert Benson is the author of numerous books. A retreat leader, Benson writes and speaks often on the life of prayer and contemplation, the practice of faith and spirituality, and the art and craft of writing. He is a graduate of and an adjunct faculty member for the Academy for Spiritual Formation, a program of the Upper Room. He is married to literary agent Sara Fortenberry. Benson lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and he dances on the head of pen every day no matter where he happens to be.

MY REVIEW: Best-selling author, James Scott Bell calls this book a gem. And a gem it is! I agree with author Melody Carlson who said that it is a delight to read.

Dancing on the Head of a Pen is small book but packed full of advice and inspiration. This may not be a book for everyone but it is a book for anyone drawn to a life of artistic expression, like writers, artists, musicians, and painters. I, like many others, have tried my hand at writing but I am not a writer. But I found this book fascinating and inspiring. If you want to live a disciplined life, this book will help. It will help you focus and live with purpose. So I recommend this book to every person wanting to deepen his or her spiritual life. Benson is witty and wise and this book is fun to read.

(I received this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.)

A COLD, IN ARIZONA, IN THE SUMMERTIME?

Friday, August 29, 2014



Nobody, and I mean NOBODY hates having a cold like I do.

You do?

No you don't. You just think you do.

Prove it?

Oh, I can prove it alright. Just come hang around with me for a few minutes.

You'll go away saying, "Nobody hates having a cold as much as Clif."

Who else but me gets a summer cold in a hot place like Arizona?

Well, my wife does. But she probably got it from me.

Yes, I know, I know. Arizona, summer, heat---all have nothing to do with getting or not getting a cold. I know that!

But it just doesn't seem right!

People who have colds should be found in cold places. Not here.

Get over it? Oh, I'll get over this lousy cold alright. But these thoughts I'm having about it--never.

These are my thoughts and I'm stickin' with them.

Nobody living in Arizona should get a cold in the summertime!!

BELIEVING OUT LOUD

Tuesday, August 05, 2014


BELIEVING OUT LOUD
Trading Fear And Defeat
For An Adventure With God
By Kimberly Wright

OVERVIEW: "Believing Out Loud is a bold reminder that God never intended for us to live in fear, but to trust him to lead us on an adventurous journey. using personal stories of humor and warmth, Kimberly wright both encourages and challenges you to lay your fears and past regrets at the foot of the cross and accept his calling with daring courage."
                   Rita Davenport, Nationally Recognized CSP
                   CPAE Speaker, Author, And Entrepreneur

AUTHOR: Kimberly Wright was named the 2009 National Young Mother of the Year by American Mothers, Inc. and is the author of Bedtime Thoughts for the Christian Mom. She earned a BA in psychology from the University of Oklahoma and blogs weekly at www.believingoutloud.com. She travels across the U.S. speaking at women's church retreats and conferences sharing funny and encouraging stories of hope and God's endless grace. Kimberly and her husband John have four children and make their home in Overland Park, Kansas.

MY REVIEW: This book is an incredible resource for people whose lives have been limited by fear.
Kimberly writes from experience. She knows what it is like to live with feelings of low self-worth and to be filled with fear. It is out of that experience that she has written a book that you can relate to and be inspired to move on with your life as an adventure with God.

God is the central figure in this book. Kimberly has written fifteen chapters dealing with the battle with fear and in six of them God is in the title. And God is mentioned several times in all fifteen. The sub-title of the book is, Trading Fear And Defeat For An Adventure With God. I believe all of us had rather have an adventure with God than to live in fear. This book will show you how to do that.
After you have read this book you will want to run out and share it with somebody.

(I received this book from Leafwood Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.)

FRIED & TRUE


FRIED & TRUE
More Than 50 Recipes for
AMERICA'S BEST
Fried Chicken and Sides
Lee Brian Schrager with Adeena Sussman
Photographs by Evan Sung

OVERVIEW: Whether your prefer it cold out of the fridge or hot and crispy on a buttery biscuit. You will find your new favorite fried chicken recipe in Fried & True. Serving up more than 50 recipes for America's most decadently delicious food. Lee Schrager has left no stone unturned in his quest to find America's best fried chicken. From four-star restaurants to roadside fry shacks, you'll learn how to brine your bird, give it a buttermilk bath, batter or even double batter it, season with loads of spices, and fry it up to golden perfection.

AUTHORS AND PHOTOGRAPHER: LEE BRIAN SCHRAGER is the founder of the Food Network South Beach and New York City Wine & Food Festivals. He is also the vice president of corporate communications and national events at Southern Wine & Spirits of America and the author of The Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival Cookbook. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Lee has appeared on Today and Rachael Ray and serves on the board of directors for the Food bank for New York City. He lives in Miami and New York City.
ADEENA SUSSMAN is a food and recipe developer who has been published in Food & Wine, Martha Stewart Living, Cooking Light, Health, Self, and Every Day with Rachael Ray, and on Epicurious.
EVAN SUNG is a prominent food, lifestyle, and travel photographer based in Brooklyn. His work appears regularly in the New York Times and he has worked on cookbooks with some of the top chefs from around the world.

MY REVIEW: Review a book about fried chicken? I didn't think so! I wondered what could be said about fried chicken that I didn't already know. I love it and have been watching it cooked and eating it all my life. But then I saw some of the pictures and read a few pages of the book and found myself saying, "Wow. This is a book I need to look into.

I haven't been disappointed. The photography is excellent, the recipes are wonderful and the reviews of the restaurants are outstanding. I will certainly be trying some of the recipes and hopefully someday I will be able to visit some of the restaurants.

If you like fried chicken, and who doesn't, you will want to get this book. You will probably end up buying a few extra copies for friends.

(I received this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.)

ARMS OPEN WIDE

Monday, July 21, 2014



ARMS OPEN WIDE
A Call To Linger in the Savior's Presence
By Sherri Gragg

OVERVIEW: With a storyteller's giftedness, Sherri Gragg transports you into life-changing moments with Jesus where you'll feel touched, healed, and spiritually blessed by the assurance that the Messiah, the Healer, the Friend is alive with you now. Experience firsthand the power and devotion of the Savior in your own life. You'll know Jesus like never before. Sherri writes in fictional narrative form while mixing biblical history with scripture, creating a setting that transforms readers back in time and places them right in Jesus’ presence. For thirty-five days readers walk with the Savior to witness miraculous healings and events, and give fresh insight into His power by thinking and feeling with people whose lives became instantly transformed by His love and grace. Readers journey with Jesus and His disciples in the most important time in history.

AUTHOR: Sherri Gragg is a nationally published writer who was a winner in the 2012 Writer’s Digest Competition (inspiration).  She discovered the beautiful Jewish roots of her Christian faith during the course of a trip to Israel, and now passionately uses her gifts of writing and teaching to share the gospel of Christ through the Middle Eastern cultural lens.  She and her husband, Michael, have five children and live in Franklin, Tennessee.

MY REVIEW: Arms Open Wide—A Call To Linger in the Savior's Presence is an inviting title. I like to read it slowly and let the invitation sink into my mind. I get a mental picture of Jesus waiting with outstretched arms. I like the words of Robert Morgan: "Sherri's writings seem as if she parachuted into the middle of the Gospels, saw all the action for herself, and returned to tell us about it!

If you have ever wondered what it would have been like to witness the miraculous healing of a leper, to watch Jesus walk on water or to be in the mind of the thief hanging on the cross next to Jesus, this book will help you with that. Sherri also concludes each chapter with a prayer that is helpful. She says they are simply cries of her own heart but she believes they are a little like your heart's cry too. I think they may be.

This book is small and easy to handle. Each devotion is just the right length. They can be read easily and quickly. But you will not close the book quickly. You will want to linger and meditate letting the story travel deep into you mind. This is a good book to begin OR end the day with.

(I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.)

CURMUDGEON'S GUIDE TO GETTING AHEAD

Friday, July 11, 2014


CURMUDGEON'S GUIDE TO GETTING AHEAD
Do's And Don'ts Of Right Behavior, Tough Thinking, Clear Writing, And Living A Good Life
By Charles Murray

OVERVIEW: For those starting out in their careers—and those who wish to advance more quickly—this is a delightfully fussy guide to the hidden rules of the road in the workplace and in life. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: Charles Murray is the W. H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He is the author of such national bestsellers Coming Apart and The Bell Curve (with Richard J. Herrnstein).

MY REVIEW: Charles Murray is one of my favorite writers. I love his easy style and his quick wit. He is extremely knowable about what he writes. Even though I didn't even know what a Libertarian was when I picked up his book, What It Means to Be a Libertarian, when I put it down I felt like I had received a college education on that subject. In this, his newest book The Curmudgeon's Guide to Getting Ahead he writes about how to behave around the curmudgeon's you will meet if you wish to work at the senior levels of an organization. He gives many day-to-day tips for young people on what to expect at the senior level.

Charles has a lot to say about life in general. he urges us to leave home no matter what, get real jobs (not internships), put ourselves in scary situations, and watch the movie, Groundhog Day repeatedly.
"Witty, wise, and pulling no punches, The Curmudgeon's Guide to Getting Ahead is an indispensable sourcebook for living an adult life." He doesn't make the claim that this little book will fix all that needs fixing in life, but he thinks it might help. And it will!

(I received this book free from Blogging For Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.)

BRING THEM HOME AT ANY COST?

Saturday, June 07, 2014



Bring them home! Never leave a soldier behind!

Is it an absolute that we should never leave a soldier behind?

Today we are hearing that it is. If any criticism is made regarding the price paid to bring a soldier home, we immediately hear, "We never leave a soldier behind."

Oh, ok I guess that's right, we never leave a soldier behind. There's nothing else to say.

But there is more to say.

We have to ask ourselves if there is ever a time or reason when we just have to leave a soldier behind.

Is there? Or is it really true, WE NEVER, EVER LEAVE A SOLDIER BEHIND. NOT FOR ANY REASON!

The influential conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer says he would have made the deal to bring St. Bowe Bergdahl home. Yes, he would have freed the five Taliban militants in exchange for Bergdahl.

I have great respect for Krauthammer. But I would not have made this exchange. It is bad in many respects. I rarely disagree with him but I do this time. Krauthammer and I do not agree on all theological and religious topics why do we have to agree on this? We don't! As wise as he is, he doesn't know everything.

Soldiers take comfort in knowing that Americans never leave a soldier behind if there is any way humanly possible to bring them home without paying a price that even the soldiers themselves would refuse to pay.

The price for Bergdahl was absolutely too high to pay. And if that is the only deal that the enemy would make, then it should have been refused.

War is hell!






THE REAL WIN—Pursuing God's Plan for Authentic Success

Friday, June 06, 2014



THE REAL WIN
Pursuing God's Plan for Authentic Success
By Colt McCoy and Matt Carter
with Marcus Brotherton

OVERVIEW: In The Real Win Colt McCoy and Matt Carter wrestle deeply and personally with the challenge to succeed in a world that seems to get in the way. They raise a lot of questions about this and then deliver down-to-earth, biblical answers. Based on their personal experiences and a close study of Scripture, McCoy and Carter show men: Why so much depends on who you trust and who you serve. Why every man is called to lead and why every man can. How to man up to temptation—and conquer it. How to find the "win" even in your biggest failure. The book now includes a bonus-section on mentoring, plus a small-group reading guide.

AUTHORS: Colt McCoy is an NFL quarterback who, while at the University of Texas, led his team to the BCS national championship game and became the winningest quarterback in NCAA history. Colt is involved in ministries around the world. During the off-season, he and his wife, Rachel, live in Austin, Texas. Matt Carter is founding pastor of the eight-thousand-member Austin Stone Community Church. He is a champion for the For the City Network, which helps churches partner with social service agencies to meet local needs. Matt is the author of several books, and he speaks at conferences nationwide. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. Marcus Brotherton is the author or co-author of more than twenty-five books, including the New York Times bestseller We Who Are Alive and Remain. He lives with his family in Washington state.

MY REVIEW: Best-selling author, Max Lucado said, "Colt McCoy and Matt Carter lead men to win—not just in athletics or careers, but in life. This book is packed with inspiration and practical guidance. I heartily recommend it." And so do I.

The Real Win will challenge and convict you. What I like best about it is that it will help you grow in your faith. It touches all the areas in which men struggle. It points the way to success by pointing to Jesus. Colt and Matt are not afraid to share their own struggles and failures. But they want you to look past your failures, their failures and look to Jesus Christ for your picture of success.

This book will point you to the real win!

(I received this book from Blogging For Books for a fair and honest review.)

HOW TO START A RIOT—SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL JESUS REVOLUTION



HOW TO START A RIOT
Support Your Local Jesus Revolution
By Jonathan Storment

OVERVIEW: How To Start A Riot is a story about shipwrecks, snakebites, beatings, meetings, and other church events. This book takes us back into the first century so we can turn our world upside down as the Spirit through Peter and Paul did in their time. The way of Jesus has always been wilder than we think and more dangerous than we'd like. This is  a book about what it means to belong to the community of God—a book about how to Support Your Local Revolution. (Adapted from the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: Jonathan Storment has been in full-time ministry for over a decade. He served as associate preaching minister at The Hills Church in the Dallas area until 2010, and has been preaching minister at the Highland Church in Abilene, Texas, since 2010. Jonathan is a regular contributor to Scot McKnight's blog "Jesus Creed" and preaches at churches, university chapels, and conferences all over the world. He and his wife, Leslie, have three children: Eden, Samuel, and Hannah.

MY REVIEW: I don't know Jonathan Storment and I have never heard him preach. However, I do know Mike Cope, the preaching minister at Highland Church in Abilene, Texas, who preceded Jonathan. Mike is an outstanding preacher and writer and so I have been anxious to hear from the man who followed him in that pulpit. I still have not heard Jonathan preach but I have read this book and it is excellent. Mike likes it also. He said, "How To Start A Riot" is deeply theological, playful, and imaginative."

In the prologue Jonathan states, "I wrote this book because there is something breathtaking about the first Jesus followers. They are risky and gentle, kind and convicted, imprisoned and compassionate, dying and yet fully alive. I wrote this book because I have always wanted to get in on that. And I suspect I'm not the only one." He's not. He's not the only one! I want to. And I believe that many others do also. You may be one of those. If you are. Get this book. This book presents the Book of Acts in a way that you have never seen it before.

(I received this book from Leafwood Publishers for a fair and honest review.)

THE CLOSER―MY STORY


THE CLOSERMy Story
By Mariano Rivera with Wayne Coffey

OVERVIEW: In The Closer. Rivera takes readers into the Yankee clubhouse, where his teammates are his brothers, and discusses the other "Core Four" teammates with whom he came up in the game—Jeter, Pettitte, and Posada. He examines the mental preparation that goes into being a world-class athlete, taking us on the jog from the bullpen to the mound―a place where the game, or the season, rests squarely on his shoulders. We come to understand the laserlike focus that is his hallmark, and how his faith and his family kept his feet firmly on the pitching rubber. Many of the tools he used so consistently and gracefully came from what was inside him for a very long time―his deep passion for life; his enduring commitment to his now wife, Clara, whom he met in kindergarten; and his incredible instincts for persevering. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHORS: Mariano Rivera was a New York Yankee for nineteen seasons. He is Major League Baseball's all-times saves and ERA leader, a thirteen-time All-Star, and a five-time World Champion. He and his wife, Clara, have three sons and live in New York. Wayne Coffey is one of the country's most acclaimed sports journalists. A writer for the New York Daily News, he co-wrote R.A. Dickey's bestselling Wherever I Wind Up and is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Boys of Winter, among other books. He lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife and children.

MY REVIEW: The man who intimidated thousands of batters merely by opening a bullpen door is finally sharing his life and journey with his many fans. Today he is considered a global legend and often listed with Ruth, Mantle, Gehrig, DiMaggio, and Jeter as one of the top six Yankees of all time. And yet when he was first scouted by the Yankees, he didn't own a glove and arrived at his Yankees tryout with his big toe sticking out of his shoe. He had never flown in an airplane, had never heard of Babe Ruth, and spoke no English

The thing that impresses me the most about Rivera is his faith in the Lord to guide him.  The Wall Street Journal called him the greatest closer in baseball history. ESPN said, "...There has never been anyone like this. And it's likely there never will be." Sports Illustrated called him one of the most respected athletes in the country for almost two decades. I agree!

If you are a baseball fan you will not want to put this book down. Even if you are not a fan of the game you will be inspired by the story of this son of a poor Panamanian fisherman.

(I received this book from The Barnabas Agency in exchange for a fair and honest review.)

LIFE WORK

Friday, May 23, 2014


LIFE WORK
Confessions of an Everyday Disciple
By Randy Harris

OVERVIEW: This book offers down-to-earth wisdom from a lifetime follower of Jesus. Out of his own practice of the spiritual disciplines, his presentations before hundreds of churches and university audiences, and his deep love for his students, Randy draws us into the circle of love for God and for our neighbors. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: Randy Harris is a popular speaker at conferences, churches, and college campuses across the United States and around the world. He is a professor of theology and ethics and has received numerous awards for his classroom work. He holds degrees from Harding School of Theology and Syracuse University. This book completes a trilogy, which began with God Work: Confessions of a Stand-up Theologian (2009) and Soul Work: Confessions of a Part-time Monk (2011).

MY REVIEW: If you get the opportunity to hear Randy Harris in person―do it! If not, then by all means read his books. This one, Life Work: Confessions of an Everyday Disciple is the third in his excellent trilogy. And it is a good one!

This is a book about ethics. Its about good and bad behavior. Harris shares from his experience as a teacher of ethics, from reading a lot of books, and from being in a different church almost every week. Most of us do not get too excited when we hear the word ethics. But Randy Harris writes like he speaks―in an entertaining way. Entertaining but deeply spiritual. Sometimes when reading one of his books I feel like I do when the nurse is so good at injecting the needle that I am surprised that I have been jabbed with a needle. Thinking about it I realize there was a little pain but I didn't really mind. This is a book that will prick you occasionally but most of all it will bless you.

( I received this book free from Leafwood Publishers in exchange for an honest review.)

A GODWARD HEART

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


A GODWARD HEART
Treasuring the God Who Loves You
By John Piper

OVERVIEW: John Piper invites you to experience deeper intimacy with God through these thought-provoking and soul-enriching meditations. Whether you are just discovering the divine richness of Scripture or have long been a passionate student, you'll find a deeper understanding of God and renewed insight for your journey. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: John Piper is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary. For thirty-three years he served as pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. He is the author of more than fifty books, including the contemporary classic Desiring God.

MY REVIEW: I have been a long time admirer of John Piper's writing, of his devotion to Bethlehem Baptist Church where he devoted thirty-three years of his life and his strong proclamation of the supreme-ness of Christ in all things. I do not have the same appreciation for his deep and sincere devotion to Calvinism, which he has proudly proclaimed on numerous occasions. But that aside, John is a excellent writer and this collection of short devotions is spiritually uplifting.

There are fifty short devotions in this book and each one can be read in just a few minutes. His paragraphs are filled with Scripture. His thoughts on these Scriptures are thought provoking and challenging. Many days after reading some of them I find myself still considering them and rethinking what they mean. I recommend this book to students of the Word and all who are serious about daily devotion.

(I received this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review.)

"THEY ALWAYS TEAR DOWN THE GOOD STUFF"

Monday, May 19, 2014



In the movie, "Inventing The Abbotts" there is a reference to an old barn being torn down.

Joaquin Phoenix said, "They always tear down the good stuff."

They do. They always tear down the good stuff.

When I was a kid every Saturday afternoon found us down town people watching.

I loved that old town.

They tore it down.

At my last congregation we had a beautiful baptistery, communion table, with a preacher's stand up in the pulpit area that matched it and a beautiful wooden cross that also matched.

They tore down the baptistery, took out the communion table and speaker's stand and hid the cross.

So many things are being torn down.

On a regular basis as I move around from place to place  I find myself saying, "I can't believe they tore that down!"

Today's theme seems to be: "Change Is Good."

Many times it is. But not always!

NOT ALWAYS!

I'm old and well used. But I'm not ready to be cast aside or torn down yet.

Old barns, church buildings, towns----everything old and well worn needs to be given careful consideration before it is torn down.

Many times change is good. But not always!